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The pursuit of perfection
I struggle with always trying to achieve perfection. While that can make me ambitious and resourceful, it also makes me incredibly unhappy. I agonize over my yoga poses (are they as good as they can be? why can’t I touch my nose to my thigh yet? etc.) or what changes do I need to make in my healthy habits to make them better or more in line with what so and so said, or if I have too many thoughts during my meditation or if I am “goth” enough or I spend hours on end memorizing the first page of my biology lecture before I can move on to the next. It’s extremely draining and it has only gotten worse. The reach for perfection is painful because it is often driven by both a desire to do well and a fear of the consequences of not doing well. This is the double-edged sword of perfectionism and when it is mixed with my lost sense of self, things aren’t so great.
All throughout high school (and frankly, until a couple of years ago) I identified as goth and I was good at it. Goth = Maggie. Goth defined me. I perfected the style, loved the music, the right movies, had popular goth friends. It felt good. I knew how to move forward (what black top to wear with these new cute leather black shorts or how to style my hair or do my makeup, what bands were up and coming). I was on top of all the goth trends.
Over the last couple of years, I began to focus on my health. I changed my diet, started exercising, reading, meditated and the things that once mattered to me, didn’t resonate with me anymore. I was more interested in binaural beats than NineInchNails. That’s when the discomfort and uncertainty came flooding in. I only knew how to dress goth but that didn’t feel right anymore but I didn’t feel comfortable wearing anything else because I didn’t know how to wear it. I was stuck between 2 worlds. This same feeling came at me from every direction and I felt no, I feel lost.
Because I feel lost I am putting a lot of emphasis on material goods to try and help find my sense of self again (but as I mentioned, since I can’t be perfect at dressing like a yogi – and I would feel like a fraud for dressing like one – or corporate boss lady, I just sulk around in a fusion of goth and all those things which I don’t feel comfortable in either so I have resolved to black tights and a black tank top). I also find myself trying to control EVERYTHING (super organized planner, reorganizing my facebook feed and email, decluttering and redecorating my home etc).
So now that I think I am dealing with perfectionism, I thought I would make the best of the situation and find some tips on dealing with perfectionism:
1. Understand what drives you to perfectionism
a) Desire to grow
i. (totally me, but only because…)
b) Social expectations
i. (…I want society to love and respect/accept me)
c) Insecurity of one’s own self worth
i. (unfortunately, I don’t think I am worth much unless I have a fancy job and the proper clothing; something to work on, I know).
2. Recognize that these ideals are directions to work towards and not absolutes which you need to achieve
a) (I can grow at my own pace and in my own space and no matter what I choose to do or who I choose to be, I am a positive member of society)
3. Respect and love yourself
a) (Let go of that negativity because you don’t need that)
4. Focus on the big picture and create small steps to get to there and only then focus on what CAN be done
a) (Leave your mistakes and what ifs behind and instead plan the tiniest of forward moving steps; if you are struggling to put on your pants, you should focus on all the ways you can put those pants on and how awesome life will be once you accomplish that small feat).
5. Let go and accept the situation as it is, then celebrate the victories and progress you have made (you put pants on, you are a boss!)
So here I am, uncomfortable in my own skin, 27 and without a sense of self. I don’t really know what happens next but I am happy to be able to put my feelings into words (being aware of the problem helps me assess the situation and hopefully find a way to move forward). I think I am looking for reassurance, or maybe a friend who can just do these things that I now like with me (and maybe help me put nice outfits together). But…since those don’t just appear, I am going to try out these tips on dealing with perfectionism and just stumbling forward.
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